Causes of mortality are a crucial input for health systems for identifying appropriate interventions for child survival. We present an updated series of cause-specific mortality for neonates and children younger than 5 years from 2000 to 2019.
We updated cause-specific mortality estimates for neonates and children aged 1–59 months, stratified by level (low, moderate, or high) of mortality. We made a substantial change in the statistical methods used for previous estimates, transitioning to a Bayesian framework that includes a structure to account for unreported causes in verbal autopsy studies. We also used systematic covariate selection in the multinomial framework, gave more weight to nationally representative verbal autopsy studies using a random effects model, and included mortality due to tuberculosis.
In 2019, there were 5·30 million deaths (95% uncertainty range 4·92–5·68) among children younger than 5 years, primarily due to preterm birth complications (17·7%, 16·1–19·5), lower respiratory infections (13·9%, 12·0–15·1), intrapartum-related events (11·6%, 10·6–12·5), and diarrhoea (9·1%, 7·9–9·9), with 49·2% (47·3–51·9) due to infectious causes. Vaccine-preventable deaths, such as for lower respiratory infections, meningitis, and measles, constituted 21·7% (20·4–25·6) of under-5 deaths, and many other causes, such as diarrhoea, were preventable with low-cost interventions. Under-5 mortality has declined substantially since 2000, primarily because of a decrease in mortality due to lower respiratory infections, diarrhoea, preterm birth complications, intrapartum-related events, malaria, and measles. There is considerable variation in the extent and trends in cause-specific mortality across regions and for different strata of all-cause under-5 mortality.